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Putinism is the political system of Russia formed during the leadership of Vladimir Putin. It is characterized by the concentration of political and financial powers in the hands of "siloviks" — current and former "people with shoulder marks", coming from a total of 22 governmental enforcement agencies, the majority of them being FSB, Police, Army and national guard of the Russian Federation.[1][2][3][4][5] According to columnist Arnold Beichman, "Putinism in the 21st century has become as significant a watchword as Stalinism was in the 20th".[6]

The "Chekist takeover" of the Russian state and economic assets has been allegedly accomplished by a clique of Putin's close associates and friends[7] who gradually became a leading group of Russian oligarchs and who "seized control over the financial, media and administrative resources of the Russian state"[8] and restricted democratic freedoms and human rights. According to some scholars, Russia has been transformed to an "FSB state".[9][10] Putin himself admitted that "there is no such thing as a former KGB man"[11] and that "a group of FSB colleagues dispatched to work undercover in the government has successfully completed its first mission."[12]


Sociologists, economists and politologists emphasize different features of the system.

Characteristics of Putinism highlighted by publicists and journalists[edit]

  • Putin’s personality cult, [13] creating [14] through glorification in the media,[15] the image of a “national hero”,[16]
  • strong presidential power, [17] strengthened even in comparison with Yeltsin times,[18]
  • strong state control over property, [17]
  • elements of nepotism a (cooperative “Ozero”),
  • reliance on siloviki (people from several dozen security agencies, many of whom worked with Putin before he came to power),
  • selective application of justice [19] [20], subjectively selective application of the law (“Everything is for the friends, the law is for the enemies”),[21]
  • relatively liberal, but devoid of transparency, financial and tax policies,[3]
  • “manual control” mode:[22][23][24] a weak technical government that does not have any political weight, with real control of the country from Presidential Administration,[22]
  • utmost secrecy of power and backstage making of key decisions,[22]
  • the authorities' dislike of freedom to express their opinion, censorship,[25]
  • strategic relations with The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, they say, the property interests of the church [26] and a policy of promoting clericalization of society.[27][28]
  • In the international arena, Putinism is characterized by nostalgia in Soviet times and a desire to regain the situation when USSR competed on an equal footing with USA in matters of international politics. Energy is used as an instrument of international politics (so-called “pipeline diplomacy”).[29]

Characteristics of Putinism highlighted by scientists[edit]

M. Urnov and V. Kasamara are distinguished as established among political scientists “direct signs of the departure of the current political system of Russia from the basic principles of competition policy”[30]:

  • centralization,[31] strong presidential power,[17] weakening of the political influence of regional elites and big business[30]
  • establishment of direct or indirect state control over the main television channels of the country, censorship;[30][32]
  • the ever-increasing use of the “administrative resource” in elections at the regional and federal levels;[30][32]
  • the actual elimination of the system of separation of powers, the establishment of control over the judicial system;[30][32]
  • non-public style of political behavior[30][32]
  • monopolization of political power in the hands of the president[32]
  • priority of state interests over the interests of the individual, restriction of the rights of citizens[32][31], Reprisals against Civil Society[31]
  • creating an image of a "besieged fortress", equating opposition activities with hostile[32] and its ousting from the political field[33]
  • Putin’s personality cult,[34] the embodiment of state succession in it after a serious injury from the collapse of the USSR[33]
  • bureaucratic authoritarianism[35], the presence of the ruling party merged with the bureaucratic apparatus[32][35]
  • state corporativism[35][34]
  • strong state control over property,[17]
  • aggressive foreign policy[31]
  • focus on order and conservative values[33]
  • ideology of national greatness[33]
  • Anti-Western sentiment[33]

Sociological studies[edit]

Sociological investigation unveiling the phenomena was done in 2004 by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, who has determined the portion of siloviks in Russian political elite as 25%.[1] In Putin's "inner circle" which constitutes about 20 people, amount of siloviks rises to 58%, and fades to 18–20% in Parliament and 34% in the Government.[1] According to Kryshtanovskaya, there was no capture of power as Kremlin bureaucracy has called siloviks in order to "restore order". The process of siloviks coming into power has allegedly started since 1996, Boris Yeltsin's second term. "Not personally Yeltsin, but the whole elite wished to stop the revolutionary process and consolidate the power." When silovik Vladimir Putin was appointed Prime Minister in 1999, the process was boosted. According to Olga, "Yes, Putin has brought siloviks with him. But that's not enough to understand the situation. Here's also an objective aspect: the whole political class wished them to come. They were called for service... There was a need of a strong arm, capable from point of view of the elite to establish order in the country."[1]

Kryshtanovskaya has also noted that there were people who had worked in structures "affiliated" with KGB/FSB. Structures usually considered as such are the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Governmental Communications Commission, Ministry of Foreign Trade, Press Agency News and others. "The itself work in such agencies doesn't involve necessary contacts with special services, but makes to think about it."[36] Summing up numbers of official and "affiliated" siloviks she got an estimate of 77% of such in the power.[1]

Intelligence state[edit]

According to former Securitate general Ion Mihai Pacepa, "In the Soviet Union, the KGB was a state within a state. Now former KGB officers are running the state. They have custody of the country’s 6,000 nuclear weapons, entrusted to the KGB in the 1950s, and they now also manage the strategic oil industry renationalized by Putin. The KGB successor, rechristened FSB, still has the right to electronically monitor the population, control political groups, search homes and businesses, infiltrate the federal government, create its own front enterprises, investigate cases, and run its own prison system. The Soviet Union had one KGB officer for every 428 citizens. Putin’s Russia has one FSB-ist for every 297 citizens."[37][38]

"Under Russian Federation President and former career foreign intelligence officer Vladimir Putin, an "FSB State" composed of chekists has been established and is consolidating its hold on the country. Its closest partners are organized criminals. In a world marked by a globalized economy and information infrastructure, and with transnational terrorism groups utilizing all available means to achieve their goals and further their interests, Russian intelligence collaboration with these elements is potentially disastrous", said politologist Julie Anderson.[9]

Former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy shares similar ideas. When asked "How many people in Russia work in FSB?", he replied: "Whole country. FSB owns everything, including Russian Army and even own Church, the Russian Orthodox Church ... Putin managed to create new social system in Russia".[39]

"Vladimir Putin's Russia is a new phenomenon in Europe: a state defined and dominated by former and active-duty security and intelligence officers. Not even fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, or the Soviet Union – all undoubtedly much worse creations than Russia – were as top-heavy with intelligence talent", said intelligence expert Marc Gerecht.[40]


Some economists consider the political system in Russia as a variety of corporatism. According to Andrei Illarionov, a former advisor of Vladimir Putin, this is a new socio-political order, "distinct from any seen in our country before". He said that members of the Corporation of Intelligence Service Collaborators took over the entire body of state power, follow an omerta-like behavior code, and "are given instruments conferring power over others – membership “perks”, such as the right to carry and use weapons". According to Illarionov, this "Corporation has seized key government agencies – the Tax Service, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Parliament, and the government-controlled mass media – which are now used to advance the interests of [Corporation] members. Through these agencies, every significant resource of the country – security/intelligence, political, economic, informational and financial – is being monopolized in the hands of Corporation members".[41]

Members of the Corporation created an isolated caste. A former KGB general said that "a Chekist is a breed... A good KGB heritage—a father or grandfather, say, who worked for the service—is highly valued by today's siloviki. Marriages between siloviki clans are also encouraged."[42]

Single-party bureaucratic state[edit]

Russian politician Boris Nemtsov and commentator Kara-Murza define Putinism in Russia as "a one party system, censorship, a puppet parliament, ending of an independent judiciary, firm centralization of power and finances, and hypertrophied role of special services and bureaucracy, in particular in relation to business".[43]

State gangsterism[edit]

Political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky considers Putinism as "the highest and culminating stage of bandit capitalism in Russia”.[44] He believes that "Russia is not corrupt. Corruption is what happens in all countries when businessmen offer officials large bribes for favors. Today’s Russia is unique. The businessmen, the politicians, and the bureaucrats are the same people. They have privatized the country’s wealth and taken control of its financial flows."[45]

Such views are also shared by politologist Julie Anderson who said the same person can be a Russian intelligence officer, an organized criminal, and a businessman.[9] She also cited former CIA director James Woolsey who said: "I have been particularly concerned for some years, beginning during my tenure, with the interpenetration of Russian organized crime, Russian intelligence and law enforcement, and Russian business. I have often illustrated this point with the following hypothetical: If you should chance to strike up a conversation with an articulate, English-speaking Russian in, say, the restaurant of one of the luxury hotels along Lake Geneva, and he is wearing a $3,000 suit and a pair of Gucci loafers, and he tells you that he is an executive of a Russian trading company and wants to talk to you about a joint venture, then there are four possibilities. He may be what he says he is. He may be a Russian intelligence officer working under commercial cover. He may be part of a Russian organized crime group. But the really interesting possibility is that he may be all three and that none of those three institutions have any problem with the arrangement."[46]

According to politologist Glinsky, "The idea of Russia, Inc.--or better, Russia, Ltd.--derives from the Russian brand of libertarian anarchism viewing the state as just another private armed gang claiming special rights on the basis of its unusual power." "This is a state conceived as a "stationary bandit" imposing stability by eliminating the roving bandits of the previous era.", he said.[7]

In April 2006, Putin himself expressed extreme irritation about the de facto privatization of the customs sphere, where smart officials and entrepreneurs "merged in ecstasy" (Moscow News, April 21).[47]


Some observers discuss ideology of new Russian political elite. Politologist Irina Pavlova said that chekists are not merely a corporation of people united to expropriate financial assets. They have long-standing political objectives of transforming Moscow to the Third Rome and ideology of "containing" the United States.[48] Columnist George Will emphasized the nationalistic nature of Putinism. He said that "Putinism is becoming a toxic brew of nationalism directed against neighboring nations, and populist envy, backed by assaults of state power, directed against private wealth. Putinism is a national socialism without the demonic element of its pioneer...".[49] According to Illarionov, the ideology of chekists is Nashism (“ours-ism”), the selective application of rights".[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Mission "intrusion" is complete! by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, 2004, Novaya Gazeta (in Russian)
  2. ^ From Communism to Putinism, by Richard Rahn, The Brussels Journal, 2007-09-21
  3. ^ a b Russia: Putin May Go, But Can 'Putinism' Survive?, By Brian Whitmore, RFE/RL, August 29, 2007
  4. ^ The Perils of Putinism, By Arnold Beichman, Washington Times, February 11, 2007
  5. ^ Putinism On the March, by George F. Will, Washington Post, November 30, 2004
  6. ^ Beichman, Arnold (2007-02-14). "Regression in Russia". politicalmavens.com..
  7. ^ a b The Essence of Putinism: The Strengthening of the Privatized State by Dmitri Glinski Vassiliev, Center for Strategic and International Studies, November 2000
  8. ^ What is ‘Putinism’?, by Andranik Migranyan, Russia in Global affairs, 13 April, 2004
  9. ^ a b c The Chekist Takeover of the Russian State, Anderson, Julie (2006), International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, 19:2, 237 – 288.
  10. ^ The HUMINT Offensive from Putin's Chekist State Anderson, Julie (2007), International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, 20:2, 258 – 316
  11. ^ A Chill in the Moscow Air – by Owen Matthews and Anna Nemtsova – Newsweek International, Feb. 6, 2006
  12. ^ The KGB Rises Again in Russia – by R.C. Paddock – Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2000
  13. ^ Russia Today InoTV - Die Welt: Putin’s Cult of Personality based on “politeness”
  14. ^ Sergey Samuilov “Democratization” of Afghanistan: what's new? Free Thought, Releases 10-12; Pravda Publishing House, 2007
  15. ^ Gennady Zyuganov - The Communists - 21; Algorithm Publishing House 2012; ISBN 5457273857, ISBN 9785457273856; “We are attacking, they are retreating”
  16. ^ Rogozhina Evgenia Mikhailovna - Principles and technologies for modeling political leadership in modern Russia: Monograph, 2013 NGLU; ISBN 5858392717, ISBN 9785858392712 p. 243/299
  17. ^ a b c d Lonely Power: Why Russia did not become the West and why it is difficult for Russia with the West / Shevtsova L .; Mosk. Carnegie Center. - M .: Russian Political Encyclopedia (ROSSPEN), 2010. - 272 p.
  18. ^ cf. N. A. Goreva calls the system of state power built by Yeltsin "anarchist authoritarianism". Abstract of the dissertation "Transformation of the political regime in post-Soviet Russia"
  19. ^ Putin would be happy to help Russian business, but worries about consumers. // Interfax, October 28, 2011. “I fully agree with this thesis. Believe me, many of those present in the hall know that I am trying to put it into practice. ”
  20. ^ M. Prokhorov on a straight line with V. Putin: A directed show. // RBC, April 25, 2013.
  21. ^ / # element-text Radio Echo of Moscow. Separate opinion, 11/7/2012. Leonid Radzikhovsky.
  22. ^ a b c Closed government. Vladimir Putin preserves the manual control system. // Newspaper.ru.
  23. ^ Putin's manual control. // Today ,.ru, 04.25.2013.
  24. ^ Manual control session. Putin did not close another Deripaska plant to close. // Lenta.ru, December 9, 2011.
  25. ^ Christopher Walker . Ten Years of Putinism. // InoSmi, translated from The Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2009 "However, the most striking feature of Putinism is its dislike of freedom to express one’s opinion."
  26. ^ Inopress are protected for loyalty to the ROC - Peter Tide | Bild - Putin’s Whims
  27. ^ Academicians' letter
  28. ^ / 2013/10/470 / Foundation Sanity. Orthodoxy in law. Constitution funeral? Announcement.
  29. ^ Trouble in the Pipeline
  30. ^ a b c d e f Урнов, Марк; Касамара, Валерия (2005). Современная Россия: вызовы и ответы: Сборник материалов [Modern Russia: Challenges and Answers: Collection of materials.] (in Russian). pp. 26–27.
  31. ^ a b c d Dutch sociologist Marcel Van Herpen Putinism. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan; January 2013. ISBN 978-1-137-28281-1

    Van Herpen compares in detail the many and often surprising parallels that exist between Putin’s regime and that of Weimar Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, indicating the presence of strong Fascist elements in contemporary Russia.
    However, this is tempered by other elements that show a resemblance with the Bonapartism from Napoleon III’s France and the post-modern populism of Silvio Berlusconi, creating a hybrid system which can be labelled ‘Fascism-lite’. Although ‘Putinism’ has a softer face than Mussolinian Fascism, it still contains a hard core of ultra-nationalism, militarism, and neo-imperialism.

  32. ^ a b c d e f g h Вишневский, Борис Лазаревич (2017-01-06). "Десять признаков путинизма" [Ten signs of Putinism]. echo.msk.ru.
  33. ^ a b c d e Марлен Ларюэль — Путинизм как голлизм
  34. ^ a b социолог и политический аналитик Леон Арон: Aron, Leon (8 May 2008). "Putinism" (online). American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research: 16. Retrieved 2008-01-31. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  35. ^ a b c What is ‘Putinism’?, by Andranik Migranyan, Russia in Global affairs, 13 April 2004 (рус.)
  36. ^ Fradkov: jacket over straps, by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, 2004 (in Russian)
  37. ^ Jamie Glazov (23 June 2006). When an Evil Empire Returns — The Cold War: It's back., interview with Ion Mihai Pacepa, R. James Woolsey, Jr., Yuri Yarim-Agaev, and Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, FreeRepublic.com. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  38. ^ The Kremlin’s Killing Ways – by Ion Mihai Pacepa, National Review Online, November 28, 2006
  39. ^ http://www.voanews.com/russian/archive/2007-02/2007-02-02-voa3.cfm
  40. ^ A Rogue Intelligence State? Why Europe and America Cannot Ignore Russia By Reuel Marc Gerecht
  41. ^ a b Andrei Illarionov: Approaching Zimbabwe (Russian) Partial English translation
  42. ^ Russia under Putin. The making of a neo-KGB state., The Economist, Aug 23, 2007
  43. ^ Russia After The Presidential Election by Mark A. Smith Conflict Studies Research Centre
  44. ^ Putinism: highest stage of robber capitalism, by Andrei Piontkovsky, The Russia Journal, February 7-13, 2000. The title is an allusion to work "Imperialism as the last and culminating stage of capitalism" by Vladimir Lenin
  45. ^ Review of Andrei's Pionkovsky's Another Look Into Putin's Soul by the Honorable Rodric Braithwaite, Hoover Institute
  46. ^ (Congressional Statement of R. James Woolsey, Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, 21 September 1999, Hearing on the Bank of New York and Russian Money Laundering)
  47. ^ Pavel K. Baev. Putin's fight agains corruption resembles matryoshka doll
  48. ^ Badly informed optimists, by Irina Pavlova, grani.ru
  49. ^ "George Will". www.jewishworldreview.com. Retrieved 2019-07-06.

Further reading[edit]